A nice Asian lady named Jennifer phoned me on Wednesday and asked me some questions about our house. She said something I didn't really understand about government grants and home insulation. We had a rare old chat: I must have kept her gabbing for a good quarter of an hour at least.

Jennifer seemed quite surprised to hear that our house is almost 800 years old, and that it doesn't have a roof. Apparently, that disqualified us from government assistance for loft insulation. I would have thought, if anyone had need of loft insulation, it would be someone whose house does not have a roof.

Jennifer then said that she assumed we did not have cavity walls either. I said that our walls are full of secret passages and priest holes, and that they would probably count as cavities. Jennifer seemed to doubt that they would. I more than half suspected that she didn't know what a priest hole was, but was too polite to ask.

"What about the fish pond?" I asked.

Jennifer seemed confused. I explained that our fish pond has a modern, brick wall around it, and that there are cavities in that. Jennifer began to sound a lot more encouraged. She asked me several questions about the fish pond, such as whether it had a roof. I began to wonder whether Jennifer was not quite right in the head.

After a while, it dawned on me that Jennifer seemed to be under the misapprehension that The Fish Pond  was the name of a second property that I happened to own. I soon put her straight on that.

"How big is the wall around the fish pond?" Jennifer asked, once this silly misunderstanding had been cleared up. I explained that it was about a foot high and twenty feet in circumference. "It's quite a small pond, but the wall definitely does have a cavity," I assured her.

Jennifer then gave me the excellent news that I was entitled to a government grant for 50% of the cost of having the cavity wall around my fish pond insulated.

"So, who pays for the other half?" I asked.

Jennifer sounded rather embarrassed, and explained that I would be expected to pay for the other half.

"Can't the fish pay for the other, half?" I asked.

At which point, Jennifer said that she would have to consult her supervisor. Sadly, we were then cut off.

Is it me, or has the world gone crazy? We are in the middle of the biggest financial crisis in a generation, and this coalition government has got money to fritter away on insulation for fish ponds, when there are people living in 800-year old houses without roofs over their heads!

I should probably write to my M.P.

Richard Carter

A fat, bearded chap with a Charles Darwin fixation.

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